Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dave Kellan - Open Up

ou may remember Dave from the Gutbucket Blues Band, Danny Brown (a great pop harmony band), or the KBK Blues band. All great bands that had one thing in common...they all had SHITTY NAMES!!!
But they were all excellent bands that somehow never found a niche...maybe it WAS those names.
But Dave Kellan always stood out as a tremendous talent. All he needed was that one break...that "one" open door. A lucky break never comes to you, you go to it.
And Dave went out and FOUND it
In November 2002, Dave won WIOG's mid-Michigan Idol contest and the next month he recorded demos in New York for Epic. He's on his way. Dave performed at WIOG's Winter WonderJam in January 2003, rubbing shoulders with Uncle Kracker and Bowling For Soup.This is Dave's "acoustic" album from the fall of 2001. It caught us all off-guard at the time 'cos we knew Dave as a blues rocker that possessed the purest, most powerful, and lightening fast riffs this side of Dave Edmunds on speed (remember Sabre Dance?). Dave calls it, "a fun, beat-centric, commercial interpretation of myself". I call it soul music.
"Kellan Soul"
This may be acoustic but its percussive and funky. Kellan's voice is mic'd back in the mix and it's echoed and double and triple tracked. In some respects "Open Up" is all about VOICE and singing to set a tone or a mood...and I'm not talkin' 'bout the lyrics. Kellan is a vocal gymnast on this record, using his throat, tongue, lips, and lungs to bend, prolong, and twist notes around to serve the's mood and intent.
It's an absolutely compelling and masterful juxtaposition of voice and instrument in service to the song. Dave proves to be a fine acoustic guitarist. He plays rapid-fire leads but doesn't try to overwhelm the integrity of the song. He achieves a tonal purity and beauty that is fully complimented by Matt Cohn's imaginative piano work and Jeff Wareheim's plaintive harmonica. The disc is thematically coherent with a coming of age vision of identity vs confusion and self doubt vs mastery. Issues about intimacy, love and sexuality are interwoven amongst the narrative themes. There appears to be a "parallel process" as the themes neatly tag Dave's ambivalent relationship with the music industry itself. Why does it take soooo long to be recognized? Especially when lesser talents have approached the "ring" first - so come on...OPEN UP!

The disc begins with "Better Think". This is soul music. Pure and simple. A story about a relationship with a touch of social commentary about "the world we live in". Dave pleads with her to remember the times, to cherish them 'cos it gets cold cold. A great opener with Dave's voice double tracked in harmony and as an "alter ego"

"Open Up" is a mid-temp funky-good jazz/soul with Dave in his best Stevie Wonder meets Stevie Winwood voice. Some fancy pickin' and sassy piano. Dave asks, "Do you know right from wrong" and suggests "open up your mind and you might find we are not so different afterall". Ultimately he's hopeful, reminding us to "keep on movin, keep on pushin". "Fool 4 U" is a story told in unison by Dave's voice and guitar. It's an upbeat ode to romance...young lovers in search for a soulmate. It keeps the soulful and jazzy vibe of "Open Up". Dave's vocal is inventive and compelling. "Bittersweet" is a straight folk song - a dialogue with a lover. He wants her to stop playing with his emotions. He loves her but she knocks him off his feet...again. It's just too hard. Too bittersweet.

Track 5, the jangly "Lonely Victory" is pure pop. It's a song about lost love, lost opportunities. Some great guitar work by Kellan.

"Amy Lay Your Had Down" has a Paul Simon "Cloudy" guitar riff, bass weaving in and out, and a fine vocal by Kellan. He possesses a remarkable range. He can sing powerful/gritty or soft and sweet. He sings low and breathless then soars into falsetto. He does it all here. In this song he sings of unrequited love, "I'll wait for an eternity, but that's not enough...'cos I need and want you so". But he's "dying" for her and has "cried out all those tears". "Rainy Day" is the narrative cousin to "Amy" as Dave wonders why "feelings have to end". Dave's guitar complements and punctuates his vocal. Is there anywhere to go, when there is nothing left to run to? Just save your love for a rainy day!!!

On "With the Sun Shinin", Dave harmonizes with his lead, sounding like Richard Manuel singing high harmony over Levon Helm on Up On Cripple Creek(or anything from the Band's first lp "Big Pink"). Dave's guitar, meshes perfectly with Cohn's spare piano and Wareham's mournful harp. A great roots/bluesy track

"Nothing is a mid-temp love song". Dave's electric guitar accentuates the feeling...a feeling so strong, so deep that words can't adequately describe. A paen to true and abiding love. Does it exist?

Track 10, "Love Tolls" is a companion to the previous track. It's a cool funkified rap about love's search. A background harp serves as a counterpoint that reveals the protagonist's loneliness.

"Comin Over Me" is about a troubled relaionship. The singer assures her that he will give all he's got but knows they've both been a bit "crazy" lately. And that something's been comin over him... like the "pouring rain" or a "heavy snow"

"All Along" is a ballad about love turned sour. It is part confessional and part realization. The singer begins to understand that it's time for them to part...that the relationship has come to an end.

"This Picture' is a funky R&B/Rap groove. It conveys the code of the street and the creed of the urban poets. "Everybody's chillin', killin' time". But is there a difference between black & white? Can it be only seen?

"Slipped Away" is an electric rocker with a rich aural landscape that recalls early '70's Steely Dan. Great Kellan vocal.

The disc closes with "Been Thinkin' Of" - a cool latin vibe that describes the vagaries of love. Love is supposed to last forever but...

Whew!!!15 tunes just for you. This is Dave Kellan at his most driven. The narrative is consistent throughout the disc....a questioning, a wondering...from a true seeker. Expect great things from Kellan. It's on the horizon...just "Open Up".

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